Cycle and Product ?'s
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Cycle and Product ?'s

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Cycle and Product ?'s
Old 06-01-2011, 05:24 PM   #1
 
Cycle and Product ?'s

After a devastating encounter with some form of evil fungus, I completely re-did my 30 gal tank with all new materials (topic previously posted). Prior to this I was an extremely lucky fish-owner that managed to have a great tank for years whilst understanding virtually nothing about the cycling process; I didn't even own a test kit. Now I'm a very confused fish-owner spending every spare (and not so spare) dollar attempting to keep these poor creatures alive.

Researching the fungus taught me about the cycle but I had no choice except to go with the survivors in the tank and I've had constant ammonia problems since.

The 30 gal tank houses:
2 juvenile platys (aprox. 3/4")
2 adult fan tail guppies (aprox. 1")
2 adult gouramis (aprox. 2.5")
1 bottom feeder of unknown origin (aprox. 1.5")

It's been eight weeks now and I'm still getting high ammonia (>5.0ppm) and nitrite (>10ppm) readings. The nitrates are at 20 ppm. I have three different test kits and all give basically the same results. The pH is a tad on the low side not quite 6.8; the alkalinity is about 100 ppm, also low I'm thinking; the hardness appears okay. My attempts at corrective action have been as follows:

- Regular 25-50% water changes using bottled water (0 ammonia), initially treated with appropriate amount of Stress Coat, then later switched to AquaSafe. Now I'm not treating it at all because it tests well and I saw no noticable improvement with the conditioner.

- I've reduced the feedings to the point the fish are jumping at me when I walk by in hopes of a flake. I switched from Hikari micro-pellets, which I've used for years, because I realized I was most likely overfeeding due to the combination of my fat fingers and the food's tiny size. I am now (barely) feeding TetraMin flakes which I crumble and watch to see how much, if any, is making it to the bottom.

- Haven't vacuumed the gravel in about four weeks in an effort to not disturb good bacteria.I have very light colored gravel that allows large debris to be easily seen. There are no obvious concentrations. My bottom feeder is constantly on the prowl and acts like he's starving. Once a week I toss him 1/2 of a very small algae wafer, which he does eat within the day.

- Initially I was adding Nitraban, which claims to reduce nitrates, but stopped since I didn't really know what I was doing (and obviously still don't).

- I was using Ammo-Loc every three days, but now I see it will still give high readings even if the ammonia is converted so am wondering how I'm supposed to test the levels accurately. Go by the nitrite readings?

- About every fifth water change I add 1/4-1/2 tsp. aquarium salt.

- I have not changed the filter because I read somewhere that is one of the best ways to grow good bacteria. (?) I do have a bag of activated charcoal in the tank, basically just because I've always had one.

- I purchased a zeolite pack for the tank filter to reduce ammonia but now I'm reading that the zeolite is probably not a good idea (?).

- I installed a new light bulb today. The previous bulb still worked but was extremely old so I thought there could be a spectrum issue. I couldn't find a grow light in the right size so I got a "glow light" thinking a new light was better than nothing.

- There are no live plants in the tank due to the light bulb issue. I could easily get some but will they still assist with ammonia reduction without a grow light?

Knowing I did not cycle the tank properly, my questions now are:

1. What of the above mentioned actions have I done right and what have I done wrong in trying to correct the problem?

2. What is stopping the nitrite from converting to nitrate? Is it the Ammo-Loc? Will the zeolite cause the same or similar problem? Should I use the zeolite or not?

3. I have a second 10 gal tank cycling via the shrimp method. It has three live plants which are still thin and reedy growing under grow bulbs. I put a headless shrimp in there four weeks ago; the ammonia and nitrite readings are the same as my live tank. The pH and alkalinity are way too high, but I'm not sure at what point I would adjust those levels. I'm assuming I should wait until the cycle completes via the nitrite readings?

4. I have liquid tests, paper strips and a thing in the live tank that supposedly monitors ammonia. I'm going to need more supplies soon. The lady at Petsmart today said the $12 Jungle brand paper strips are just as accurate as the $35 API kit. I'm seeing a lot of people here who think otherwise. My liquid tests were purchased separately over time so I have one for ammonia, one for pH, etc and some are different brands. Do I need to buy an all-in-one liquid testing kit and if so what brand?

My fish thank you in advance for your patience and advise.
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Old 06-01-2011, 05:52 PM   #2
 
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First, may I welcome you to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. Glad you joined.

Now to your issue. First, I am very doubtful of the test results for ammonia and nitrite, especially the latter. I can assure you that nitrite at 5ppm would mean dead fish, period. That is just not possible. So let's examine things.

In acidic water, ammonia changes to less toxic ammonium. This is how most ammonia detoxifiers act, by changing toxic ammonia to ammonium. So the ammonia in itself is not going to kill your fish, but we still need to find the source--assuming the test results are accurate. And here again I must doubt them. Ammonium is taken up by nitrosomonas bacteria the same as ammonia, and the bacteria produce nitrite which is toxic in either acidic or basic water.

The API liquid test kits are highly reliable for an aquarist. Test strips can be "close" but can be very inaccurate too. I use the API tests. The Master has pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate so that is a good investment. Down the road only pH and nitrate are necessary, but that's up to you.

Live plants would certainly help, as plants assimilate ammonium as their preferred source of nitrogen, and they can use quite a lot of it (ammonia or ammonium, they can take up both). This would mean less chance of nitrite because of fewer bacteria; plants out-compete nitrosomonas for ammonia/ammonium. But that is something to consider when the light is fixed. And briefly on that, a full spectrum or daylight bulb/tube is what you need. Is it fluorescent tube, or incandescent (screw-in) fixture? More when I know this.

The filter needs to be rinsed to keep it flowing well, but not changed unless it is falling apart. Rinse the media in tank water, and replace. This will preserve the bacteria but keep the water movement.

Adding several agents can sometimes cause trouble if they interact. I would only use a good conditioner, in this case Prime since it handles ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Let's get the system working naturally. Some fast growing stem plants will help in this.

Ammonia and nitrite can occur in tap water, but you mention using bottled water. Have you tested it for these? I wouldn't expect it, but... Is there a problem with your tap water?

Livebearers do not do well in soft acidic water. But this we can discuss later.

Byron.
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Old 06-02-2011, 05:52 AM   #3
 
Thanks Byron. I'm going to get the API or Master test kit before I make any further changes. My ammonia test kit is API liquid, but the Nitrite readings are on the paper strips.

I think I now understand the relation between the soft, acidic water and the ammonia. I probably made the water adicic using so much of the ammo-loc. The tap water here is terrible. It tests high for ammonia and chlorine. I have bottled water delivered to the house so I buy extra 5 gallon bottles to use for the fish. That water tests fine, no ammonia or chlorine, which makes me think my test kits are working.

The light fixture for this tank takes a flouresent bulb, size 15" T-8. I've had trouble finding 15" bulbs. Can I use a full-spectrum bulb from Home Depot or does it have to be one especially made for aquariums?

As for plants, I have an outdoor pond that grows water-weed like crazy (I think the scientific name is ergia). This is the free-floating, rapid multiplier. Can I rinse some off really well and put some in the live tank?

Interestingly, I had added the zeolite pack to the tank for about an hour before I read that it might not be a good idea, so I removed it. My ammonia monitor is now in the safe-zone. I haven't tested with the kits yet but will later today. Perhaps that helped just a bit?

As you can see the majority of my fish are livebearers. Are you advising that I eventually need to raise the hardness and pH of the water? I will wait to do this until the ammonia and nitrites are properly testing at the correct levels.
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Old 06-02-2011, 10:34 AM   #4
 
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Quote:
I think I now understand the relation between the soft, acidic water and the ammonia. I probably made the water adicic using so much of the ammo-loc. The tap water here is terrible. It tests high for ammonia and chlorine. I have bottled water delivered to the house so I buy extra 5 gallon bottles to use for the fish. That water tests fine, no ammonia or chlorine, which makes me think my test kits are working.
I'll comment on this below when discussing livebearers.

Quote:
The light fixture for this tank takes a flouresent bulb, size 15" T-8. I've had trouble finding 15" bulbs. Can I use a full-spectrum bulb from Home Depot or does it have to be one especially made for aquariums?
Look for a 15 inch T8 tube. If the hardware store(s) carry them, both Phillips and Sylvania make "daylight" tubes with a Kelvin around 6500K, one of these will work fine. From the fish stores, Hagen's Life-Glo 2 or ZooMed's Ultra Sun in 15 inches will be excellent, though more expensive. There are some others which I have not personally used.

Quote:
As for plants, I have an outdoor pond that grows water-weed like crazy (I think the scientific name is ergia). This is the free-floating, rapid multiplier. Can I rinse some off really well and put some in the live tank?
I would try it. It may fall apart in warmer water (depending how much warmer in the tank). Bugs may come with it, fish will eat them. From a garden pond there is not likely to be much to worry about, not like having ducks or something which is a whole different matter.

Quote:
Interestingly, I had added the zeolite pack to the tank for about an hour before I read that it might not be a good idea, so I removed it. My ammonia monitor is now in the safe-zone. I haven't tested with the kits yet but will later today. Perhaps that helped just a bit?
I don't see why zeolite would be trouble, and I've never used it myself (no reason). My earlier caution is on mixing various substances, chemicals can react when mixed.

Quote:
As you can see the majority of my fish are livebearers. Are you advising that I eventually need to raise the hardness and pH of the water? I will wait to do this until the ammonia and nitrites are properly testing at the correct levels.
Livebearers need basic harder water or they will not be healthy long-term. What is the hardness of your tap water? You can find this out from the water supply people. Chlorine is easily handled with a weater conditioner, and ammonia too. The conditioner handles the initial influx of ammonia (changing it to ammonium), live plants will assimilate it. It would be better using tap water (for the hardness). We can discuss further.

Byron.
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Old 06-02-2011, 10:51 AM   #5
 
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Your plant you were describing- is it Egeria Densa/Elodia densa?

That would be a great one to be left floating. It will do a good job absorbing nutrients.

I would also reccomend something like amazon frogbit, or even duckweed. They can be invasive, and are super hard to get rid of if you decide to, but they grow like crazy. (ie, absorb nutrients like crazy. In essense, plants convert nutrients- which ammonia/nitrogen is one- to growth. The faster the growth, the more nutrients being used)
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Old 06-08-2011, 03:06 PM   #6
 
Well, unfortunatley I lost three more fish but I think I'm finally on the right track. I did take some Elodia from the pond, chose the cleanest, greenest stems, cleaned them off pretty good and added to tank when I did a 25% water change. At the same time I added Jungle brand's version of Tetra's SafeStart (I really wish I didn't live 20 miles from PetSmart!), and pre-disolved a pH balancer in the new water.

Now the test readings show Nitrites at 1.0ppm, Nitrates at 20ppm, hardness is up to 175 (I really don't know the unit of measurement this kit uses, just that this is within range according to the kit information).

My ammonia alarm in the tank actually did change color from very high to "alert" which is .02ppm. My API liquid kit still measures the ammonia at 8.0ppm, which is very confusing to me. I've tested three other sources of water with the same kit and get 0 readings. Is it possible the liquid is outdated so it either shows all or nothing?

Hoping all of this is accurate, I'm now concerned about the alkalinity and pH. It is testing with virtually zero alkalinity and below 6.8 pH. I have two pH test kits and both give the same reading.

So I guess now I have hard acidic water instead of soft acidic water. Do I want to try to raise the pH at this point or do I want to continue to focus on keeping the ammonia safe and leave the rest alone? If I need to raise the pH, what do you recommend?

I do have some duckweed arriving this week that I plan to add.

One thing that strikes me as odd is the size of my surviving platty. When my tank died two months ago, there were about seven baby plattys, one of which survived. Prior to the collapse, we watched the babies grow from less than 1/4" to about 3/4" in about two weeks.

My one surviving baby appears to be "stuck" at 1/4". He swims around like he owns the place but I know for a fact he has been alive at least eight weeks now and he's still itty-bity. Is that due to the chemical make-up of the water?
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Old 06-08-2011, 05:58 PM   #7
 
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Quote:
Well, unfortunatley I lost three more fish but I think I'm finally on the right track. I did take some Elodia from the pond, chose the cleanest, greenest stems, cleaned them off pretty good and added to tank when I did a 25% water change. At the same time I added Jungle brand's version of Tetra's SafeStart (I really wish I didn't live 20 miles from PetSmart!), and pre-disolved a pH balancer in the new water.
Which pH balancer are you using?

Quote:
Now the test readings show Nitrites at 1.0ppm, Nitrates at 20ppm, hardness is up to 175 (I really don't know the unit of measurement this kit uses, just that this is within range according to the kit information).
The 175 is most likely ppm, which equates to 9 dGH which is soft/medium hard.

Quote:
My ammonia alarm in the tank actually did change color from very high to "alert" which is .02ppm. My API liquid kit still measures the ammonia at 8.0ppm, which is very confusing to me. I've tested three other sources of water with the same kit and get 0 readings. Is it possible the liquid is outdated so it either shows all or nothing?
Regents do expire. API put a date [or is it lot number?] on the bottom of the bottle. These kits can sit on store shelves for months. I believe most say 2-3 years is max for trusting it.

Quote:
Hoping all of this is accurate, I'm now concerned about the alkalinity and pH. It is testing with virtually zero alkalinity and below 6.8 pH. I have two pH test kits and both give the same reading.
Alkalinity is KH, concerning bicarbonates. This is what buffers pH. The pH will lower naturally without buffering.

Quote:
So I guess now I have hard acidic water instead of soft acidic water. Do I want to try to raise the pH at this point or do I want to continue to focus on keeping the ammonia safe and leave the rest alone? If I need to raise the pH, what do you recommend?
As noted above, I would say soft to slightly medium hard. If you intend keeping livebearers I would look into methods to raise the pH. As you have decent hardness, something as simple as crushed coral will work. I prefer dolomite, but that is because I have very soft water. Coral gravel in a nylon bag inside the filter is the easiest. It doesn't take much.

Any reason you don't want soft water fish? As many here will attest, selecting fish suited to one's source water is much easier. And you would be the envy of so many faced with near-liquid rock out of their tap.

Quote:
I do have some Duckweed arriving this week that I plan to add.

One thing that strikes me as odd is the size of my surviving platty. When my tank died two months ago, there were about seven baby plattys, one of which survived. Prior to the collapse, we watched the babies grow from less than 1/4" to about 3/4" in about two weeks.

My one surviving baby appears to be "stuck" at 1/4". He swims around like he owns the place but I know for a fact he has been alive at least eight weeks now and he's still itty-bity. Is that due to the chemical make-up of the water?
Possibly. But some fish do grow slowly, or almost not at all, due to genetics. I wouldn't hesitate a guess here.

Ammonia and nitrite poisoning take their toll even in fish that seem to survive the cycling. A weakened immune system, problems from oxygen shortage, who knows.

Last edited by Byron; 06-08-2011 at 06:02 PM..
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Old 06-09-2011, 05:56 PM   #8
 
[quote=Byron;695882]
Any reason you don't want soft water fish? As many here will attest, selecting fish suited to one's source water is much easier. And you would be the envy of so many faced with near-liquid rock out of their tap.

No, I just didn't know about the soft water vs. hard water until recently. The main reason I have live bearers is because they were a) cheap and b) listed as good fish for beginners. Of course I now know otherwise!

Now that we've witnessed a couple of batches of babies I am kind of hooked on watching the pregnancies as they progress. Since I began this post all three of my females are now obviously pregnant.

Since I have these now, any particular product you would suggest to raise the hardness and pH?

I'm hoping my fishless tank will complete its cycle soon. I didn't take the shrimp out soon enough, but recently did so it should be ready. What do you think about putting my male and female gouramis in a 10 gal by themselves? Seems kind of small for them to me. I will research what type of fish prefer soft water and maybe try them in the 10 gal to see how well I do.
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Old 06-09-2011, 06:36 PM   #9
 
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[quote=ikcaj;696674]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Byron View Post
Any reason you don't want soft water fish? As many here will attest, selecting fish suited to one's source water is much easier. And you would be the envy of so many faced with near-liquid rock out of their tap.

No, I just didn't know about the soft water vs. hard water until recently. The main reason I have live bearers is because they were a) cheap and b) listed as good fish for beginners. Of course I now know otherwise!

Now that we've witnessed a couple of batches of babies I am kind of hooked on watching the pregnancies as they progress. Since I began this post all three of my females are now obviously pregnant.

Since I have these now, any particular product you would suggest to raise the hardness and pH?

I'm hoping my fishless tank will complete its cycle soon. I didn't take the shrimp out soon enough, but recently did so it should be ready. What do you think about putting my male and female gouramis in a 10 gal by themselves? Seems kind of small for them to me. I will research what type of fish prefer soft water and maybe try them in the 10 gal to see how well I do.
What is the gourami species?

You realiz\e you will have hundreds of livebearer fry to deal with? A female can give birth to 50-60 fry about every 5-6 weeks. And they need a lot of growing space. Once a female is impregnated, she can deliver 5 (if memory serves me) broods without a male present.
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Old 06-10-2011, 07:07 AM   #10
 
They are a M/F pair of blue gouramis (Trichogaster trichopterus). I've had them about six months now but have yet to see the female creating an egg bubble. I initally had a very agressice male, beautiful fish but too mean. I traded him to a good home for the docile male I have now.

If they were the only two fish in the tank, could a 10 gal. suffice?

As for the fry, no I didn't realize it could be that many. My plan, if they live, was to trade them with friends and for store credit at a locally owned and operated fish/aquarium store.

Also, please ignore my previous question about raising hardness/pH. You answered it in your inital reply regarding the crushed coral. I was very tired last night - felt like an idiot asking a question you had just answered lol!
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